Feeding time at our home is a bit of a frenzy, and with three dogs and two cats, each of a different size and with different needs, you can guess why.
Just as the grass is always greener on the other side for us humans, cat food is more desirable to dogs than what’s in their own bowl and vice versa. So the struggle begins with trying to keep each out of the other’s bowl. This means a lot of careful separation with baby gates and stringent supervision. One lax moment would mean Opie would have licked clean the cats’ tiny bowls before I could say “No!”.
Freddie, our darling oldie, is also the smallest of our dogs. His teeth are weak and he refuses to eat kibble, so he is on a canned food diet. He also likes to wait to ingest anything other than what he’s supposed to eat, if he can get it, before he gets to his bowl. So his food hangs around for hours before he touches it and that, naturally, sets Opie and Lucy off into a contest to see who can get into Freddie’s food before he gets to it.
Then there’s Pie, our black cat, who’s watching her weight, or rather whose weight we are watching. Pie is more than a little food obsessed and every morning I wake up to her constant chant of meows as she demands that I get up at once and feed her. One of the ways she manages to eat more than her share is by bullying the more peace-loving Pubm to give up her food.
For some reason, human food is the most desirable of all to canines of all sizes, shapes and temperament. Even the vegan food on my plate, strangely enough, is irresistibly attractive to these four-legged weirdos. Not so much for Lucy, who doesn’t like vegetables, but for Freddie and definitely for Opie– who, and I am not kidding– will eat anything. He takes tofu, carrots, spinach, edamame, lettuce, potatoes, upma, dosa, dal and bread delicately from my hand and follows it all with a satisfied roll of the tongue over his mouth as if to say a lipsmacking thank you!
But Opie’s most favorite food of all has got to be rice. He would eat bowl after bowl of plain boiled rice if I let him which of course I don’t, because just like us humans dogs have to watch their carb intake AND their meals need to be balanced. I often kid that he must be a South Indian at heart, like Desi, because of his love for rice.
And now for a South Indian dish that works wonderfully with rice (for humans). This Green Tomato Masial is a treat we enjoy usually only in the summers when I can grow my own tomatoes and pick them off the vine before they can be touched by even the palest shade of orange. A green tomato has a character of its own, quite different from its ripe version. It’s tart and tangy and firm, and in this masial it is a treat unlike any other.
I had a while ago posted my tomatillo masial, which is my winter version of this dish, but I wanted to share this too since it is one of Desi’s favorite dishes, and also quite easy to make.
To go with my Green Tomato Masial, I made an utterly simple but also utterly delicious okra subzi which is exactly how my mom always made it, and which I absolutely adore. The flavor here comes from the wonderful caramelization of the onion and the okra which makes everything taste sweet and rich. So much, in fact, that as a child okra or ladies’ fingers (bhendi in Marathi or vendakka in Tamil) were my favorite veggie!
The okra, along with the green tomatoes, comes from my backyard. I find okra one of the easiest veggies to grow because I can plant the seeds directly into the soil once the coldest of days is past, and the seedlings come up with little fuss. With regular watering and feeding, they give me slender and tender fingers of okra all summer which taste far better than the bags of frozen, slimy supermarket stuff I have to put up with all winter.
Green Tomato Masial
3/4 cup tuvar dal (yellow split peas or pigeon peas), covered with water, then pressure cooked or boiled until tender.
4 medium green tomatoes, chopped into an even dice of about 1/2 cm.
1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
1 heaping tbsp sambar powder
1 tsp mustard seeds
A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
1 sprig curry leaves
2 green chilies, slit through the middle.
Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a saucepan.
Add the mustard leaves and asafetida. When the mustard sputters, add the curry leaves, stir quickly, then add the green tomatoes.
Cook until the tomatoes break down and get quite tender, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the sambar powder, stir thoroughly, then add the cooked tuvar dal.
Add salt to taste, and add water if the mixture is too thick. Let it come to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes so all the flavors come together.
Garnish, if desired, with chopped coriander leaves.
About 12 fresh okra, trimmed at both ends, then cut into very thin rings, about 1/4th of a centimeter wide (if you cut them too thick, they will not cook through before they start to brown)
1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dry red chillies, broken into smaller pieces
Salt and ground black pepper to taste.
Heat the oil in a cast-iron or non-stick skillet
Add the mustard seeds and when they sputter, add the onions and red chillies and stir until the onions get slightly translucent, just a couple of minutes.
Add the okra and fry, stirring frequently, until they are quite brown and crispy.
Add some salt and pepper at the very end to season.
The Green Tomato Masial goes to Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook for the 14th edition of her now legendary and healthful My Legume Love Affair. Thanks, dear Susan!